SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson deliberately hit a moving ball on the 13th green in an astonishing incident during the third round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday.
The five-times major champion Mickelson had a meltdown after his short putt missed the hole and kept trickling, and trickling, down the hill.
He trotted after it and when the ball was about 15 feet beyond the hole, and still trickling, he hit it back towards the hole.
The penalty for hitting a moving ball is a two-stroke penalty, and Mickelson was provisionally assessed with a 10 at the par-four hole.
The incident on Mickelson’s 48th birthday brought to mind a similar episode by John Daly at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Daly, however, already had a reputation for being wild and unpredictable, whereas Mickelson’s reputation as American golf’s golden man has been cultivated over nearly three decades of exemplary behavior on the course.
It was not immediately clear what was Mickelson’s motive in striking the ball.
Whatever it was, the Fox television analysts were stunned.
“John Daly’s reputation took a hit after what he did at Pinehurst in ‘99 and I fear it will be the same for Phil,” said former U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay.
Major champions Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger were equally stunned.
“I’ve never seen anything like that from a world class player in my life,” said Strange.
Said Azinger: “That’s the most out of character I’ve ever seen Phil Mickelson.”
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Gene Cherry